Sunday, February 21, 2010

February Means Baby Lambs and Goats

Last Tuesday morning as I milked Priscilla, Philip cried out with news of the first baby lambs born this season. Sissy, a cotswold-jacob cross ewe is a lovely thing, rusty brown coat with curly wool, a mark of a backwards C on her nose. She is inquisitive and fairly friendly. She had two babies, a female with Jacob markings. I called her Prima, for obvious reasons. The male lamb is almost all black, with a funny white toupee marking on his head. I don't know what we will name him. He was almost twice as big as the little female. Both were up and nursing and nicely dried off by the time I finished the milking. Sissy was fine. We tucked the little family into a nicely cleaned stall (I was thankful that I took care of that job the day before), gave the momma a little grain and a bunch of hay and clean water.

Wednesday morning Esther, the oldest grandma Jacob ewe delivered a singleton. We placed her and the lamb in a nice clean stall. The baby was floppy and weak. Couldn't nurse. I headed to DC with Nora and left Philip to care for the little thing. He gave it warm milk and sugar with a syringe. It died later that afternoon.

Yesterday morning Annie, another Jacob ewe, delivered twin males. One was huge and very healthy. Nursed immediately. The other one never even made a noise. It died. We don't know if it was stillborn, or if it died shortly after. The one that lived is as large as the other almost one week old lambs. Maybe the delivery took too long. I don't know.

This morning, sometime between morning chores and after church Cornflower, Maggie's nubian-bohr cross delivered two little bucklings. The snow is melting and left a big puddle in a part of the barn. One of the babies drowned in the puddle. At least we found it dead in the mud when we went out to take care of afternoon chores. We weren't even expecting goat babies for another week or so. We placed Cornflower and her living baby in a clean stall with fresh water and plenty of hay. The little fellow is nursing and looks perfectly healthy.

Some years we don't lose any babies. Typically we lose one or two. Taking care of three little lifeless forms is kind of depressing. Makes me feel serious. Makes me question my judgement. Makes me wonder if I had been here on Wednesday instead of driving to DC could I have nursed the little lamb back to life? If I had been vigilant with Annie and had been present when she delivered, could I have assisted and helped the baby survive? If I had been out to shovel out the flood this morning would Cornflower's other baby still be alive?

Reality on the farm means a very healthy dose of life and death. My head tells me that I cannot live out at the barn every single minute. There has to be some kind of survival of the fittest. We do our part to take care of the animals, provide them a clean, dry place to hang out in the winter, but sometimes we can't prevent or foresee every single problem.

My heart, on the other hand, tells me that I could have done something more. I told my heart that it is understandable to feel a bit grieved, but blame won't bring any babies back. So we will do our best, dust off, pick ourselves up and be prepared for the rest of the baby season. No one promised that we would get to be the one family farm that doesn't have to experience loss or death.

I suppose that if you are wishing to have your own farm someday, be prepared for some heartbreak and loss.

I suppose that if you are wishing to live your own life someday, be prepared for some heartbreak and loss.

(I did mention a couple of posts ago that maybe some of you would be better of waiting until April to rejoin my blog world. I really am okay, and not clinically depressed or anything. At the moment. But am feeling sobered by life circumstances and might not be terribly cheery.)

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